TRF:Hi John. Well, this is an exciting announcement. I bet you’ve been dying to tell the world about this project. Can you start by explaining what the Trans Euro Trail is?
John:Absolutely! In a sentence: The TET is a 34,000km legal overland route from the North Cape in Norway to Tarifa on the Straits of Gibraltar taking in 28 European countries and some of the best trails, landscapes and experiences of our continent using as little surfaced road as possible that’s been put together by the people that best know those trails – local riders. Phew!
TRF:Where did the idea for TET come from? It’s obviously got connections to the Trans America Trail (TAT) right?
John:Yes, Sam Correro’s TAT was our inspiration, as was the Trans Canada Adventure Trail. Both use GPX’s to allow adventurous self-sufficient riders to step off the beaten track and experience the true heart of their countries. I’ve not been riding in the States but have been lucky enough to explore the trails of Europe from Hungary to France and the Netherlands to Spain as well as spending time exploring remote Southern and Eastern Africa by motorcycle and dipping into amateur Rallye Raid in North Africa. Through these forays, I’ve met like minded riders from across Europe – people passionate about their pastime, the trails they use and their spectacular home countries.
TRF:I imagine many people have thought about this kind of project but up till now no one has managed to pull it off. How did you do it?
John:It’s taken a considerable amount of time and many, many e-mails, messages and telephone conversations (my wife deserves a medal for her patience!) But it seemed to strike a chord early on and once people got wind of the project, offers of help from across the continent came in. To me that’s been the most exciting thing – watching the banter, passion and ideas bouncing around – just the same thing that happens on a ride or at a TRF meeting but this time across a whole continent. The power of the internet, an idea and a shared goal! We very soon realised that it was too big a project for one person to manage so for each country a “Linesman” volunteered – someone with the knowledge, networks, passion, IT and communication skills to coordinate their part of the TET. Not for any financial reward, just for the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something for the greater trail riding community and being in at the inception of something rather exciting.
TRF:It’s obvious that community is a big part of the TET. Is there a commercial element? Everything is available for free, but you also have a commercial partner?
John:The idea of the TET was to create something for bikers, by bikers. Something borne out of a shared obsession. People gave freely of their time, routes and experience in the knowledge that there was no commercial driver – the TET was to be free to those that wanted to use it. No impediment would be put in place of people wanting an adventure except their own self-imposed limitations. We know the liberating nature of our pastime, we want more people to experience it.
TRF:As we know, the status of green roads in the UK is constantly changing. How do you manage to make sure that everything on the TET is legal?
John:That’s the thing that’s really important to all of us involved in the TET. Keeping the TET current and legal is critical. We are all only too aware that there are forces out there eager to further limit our freedom and will leap on any infringement with glee. The TRF have been a huge support in the UK. They are the experts, the curators of our green road heritage. In the UK Regional Rights of Road reps have guided us away from closed or TRO’d trails and seasonal TROs. We can’t watch every metre of 34,000km but our users can. The whole idea of the TET is that it’s never finished, it’s constantly evolving. The GPX track isn’t gospel, what lies in front of one’s front wheel is. Riders using the TET will remain aware of their surroundings and feed back issues, changes and closures through the website, allowing the Linesman to update the GPX to keep it as current as possible. It’s a living, changing beast. That said, with the best will in the world, it’ll never be 100% current and some of the route will be infrequently travelled or not ridden recently. The bottom line is that the rider on his bike has to accept full and personal responsibility for any transgressions. After all you don’t blame your 1:25,000 map. TomTom or Michelin Road Atlas for mistakes.
TRF:Some people may be concerned that having a route available through the UK might increase traffic and put more pressure on the Green Road network. What would you say to that?
John:Indeed it might increase the footfall a bit – there might be a pair of Montenegran DRZ400’s riding down your local lane in August or you might have the opportunity to stop and chat to a French rider on a green road in the Welsh mountains or share lunch with three Italian KTM Adventure riders on the Old Coach Road in the Lakes. Perhaps you can help mend a puncture, point out a cracking pub or café or even offer them a bed for the night. Perhaps a friendship will ensue and an invitation to their neck of the woods. Or perhaps you will be that Yorkshireman, Welshwoman or Dorsetman edging along a trail high in the Romanian Carpathians or Spanish Pyrenees waving to local riders and stopping to kick tyres and talk bikes and beers.
TRF:It’s a remarkable project John, you must be very proud of what you’ve managed to achieve. I look forward to getting out there and exploring Europe!